“… sends people to hell!”
“… lets babies die!”
“… says gay marriage is wrong!”
Even as I write this I ask myself whether I really want to come to the defence of the God who is morally condemned by my culture. It seems that humanity has learned to play nice with one another and that the only one who missed the memo was God! He is the latecomer to the tolerance, peace, and acceptance of modern Western society. He cannot really be as previously imagined. He must be dismissed as fiction or, if you insist on believing in him, morally amended.
Many believe in a God and yet find themselves saying that they “could never believe in a God who could do this or that.” It feels like the moral high ground for Theism, but upon closer inspection, it has lost much more than it has gained.
Firstly, difficult questions about God’s actions can make us ask whether he is truly good. But there are good reasons to believe on the moral and ontological arguments for God alone that he is a morally good and maximally great creator of the universe. Centuries of philosophical work from Christian Theists have successfully defended these beliefs.
Furthermore, virtually all historians agree that Jesus of Nazareth existed, was believed to have performed miracles, preached, was crucified, and was buried. They also agree that three days later Jesus’ tomb was found empty and that his disciples died gruesome deaths defending the belief that he had risen from the dead. Today, those who also believe he rose from the dead can have a similar confidence in his teachings on God’s good moral character.
When a condemning question on God’s morality meets me it must first tear down all the philosophical and logical reasons to believe that God is morally good and maximally great, in addition to removing all historical reason to believe the trustworthiness of Jesus’ testimony concerning God’s moral nature. Since discovering these truths, hard questions have stopped shaking my faith in God’s goodness as much because they do not strike at the basis for that belief. If questions shake anything, it shakes minimally because I maintain classical Christian Theism for intellectual reasons even in the face emotionally difficult questions.
Secondly, if for no other reason than fascination, humanity should want to know the true nature of God. God’s nature is not determined by opinion or popular vote. He is personal, and in the same way that your personality is not decided by others, neither is his. As such, no emotional distaste for any of God’s character does anything to change who he is in reality. God’s nature is an objective truth independent of how I feel or what I decide to believe.
Lastly, when something about God seems wrong, by what standard is that judged to be true? When not pressed with the question, we naturally rely on our cultural morality or those beliefs which feel right at the moment. However, I once read in a cynical online post that “if your God agrees with everything you think, you’re probably your God.” To only use personal moral convictions to judge and modify the character of God is succumbing to this criticism in the worst of ways! It places the individual at the centre of his or her own understanding of morality instead of a transcendent and omniscient being. Therefore, when I emotionally disagree with God, I believe I have fallen short in understanding goodness. I am the one who needs to adapt.
Most of what I’ve claimed above as true has been more or less listed than defended. However, if nothing else, I believe the complexity of these questions demonstrate that a simple “I could never believe in a God who…” fails as an adequate response to any difficult question about God.
As for myself, I find an odd comfort in having tough questions about God’s words or actions. My questions remind me that I am not looking into the mirror at a God of my own making. Rather, I am looking to something other than myself – someone beyond me. Someone I was made to be like, and not the reverse!